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5 Ways to Save Money when You're on a Budget

Saving money when you don't have a lot to work with can seem like an impossible task. However, there are many creative ways to cut back and save more. We've outlined a few basic tips and tricks for adding more money to your savings – and more peace of mind to your life.

1. Document Your Income and Expenses

One of the best ways to start budgeting is to keep track of where and when your money is leaving your wallet. You can use a simple Excel spreadsheet to input how much you're earning, alongside how much you’re paying in bills -- or use an app that tracks your income and expenses automatically. Some popular, hardworking finance apps for Android include Mint, MoneyWise and YNAB (You Need a Budget). Tracking your spending will help you visualize how your finances look from month-to-month – and give you some clues as to where you can save some extra money.

paying for lunch with credit card

2. Eat at Home and Bring Lunch to Work

Lunches out can run you $10-$15 per meal. And dinners out can cost much more than that! For reference, a $12 lunch out five days a week is costing you $60 a week – or $2,880 per year. That’s a vacation budget! Save your eating out for special occasions, and you’ll have the opportunity to save a lot of money. Cook at home for dinner and bring your lunch to work most days. With all the money you’ll be saving, you’ll be able to add a lot to your savings account while eating healthier to boot.

3. Save in Smaller Increments

Saving even a small amount is better than not saving at all. Even if it’s just a dollar a week at first – every little bit you can save will add up over time and provide you some solid savings. Many banks now offer a debit card option to roll your change from purchases into your savings account. By starting small, you’ll be able to start saving in a way that’s painless to your everyday habits. And once you see the rewards n your savings account, you’ll likely be motivated to save even more as time goes by.

4. Cut Bills You Don’t Need

Once you establish your budget, it will become clear which bills are the biggest drain on your finances. If you have a high-interest credit card, for example, you can prioritize reducing your debt by focusing on paying that card off in bigger amounts. Or, you can look for ways to save on bills that are non-essential, like magazine subscriptions or your cable bill. By watching your favorite shows and movies through streaming providers like Netflix and Hulu, you can eliminate a significant monthly payment – and take that extra money straight to the bank.

5. Buy Quality

This tip may seem counterintuitive, but it’s a proven way to save money in the long run. Even though quality items may cost more upfront, they also work better and last longer. This approach works on everything from furniture and appliances to clothes and services. Where possible, find ways to save on the initial purchase by researching sales or using online discount codes. By buying quality goods and services, you’ll protect yourself from having to replace your items more often – and you’ll likely enjoy them better, too.

Saving money may be harder when you don’t have a lot to begin with, but it is possible. By making small steps and being creative and organized about your spending, you can find new ways to put money away and start to build your own financial safety net.